The Fun That Was Peace Corps Guyana - Mark's Blog

Postings from just north of the equator. Let's see if training in CPR and First Aid prepares me to teach Health Education in a small, remote village in Guyana. I'm thinking... no. Read all about this ill advised decision! In addition, here is the required Peace Corps disclaimer: "The contents of this website are mine personally and do not reflect any position of the US government or the Peace Corps." So, please, don't confuse me with the White House Press Secretary.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Riding With Wildlife

A short story about why I think Guyana is just a hilarious place. It seems like weird stuff like this happens all the time. Anyways, I had to go into Georgetown for my mid-service medical tests last week. The raining season has started up, which means this trip was especially miserable. Usually it takes me around two and half hours, taking cars, mini-buses, and speed boats. So I’m waiting in Supenaam for my speed boat to leave, sitting in the light rain. Finally it fills up with two guys carrying a really big bag. As they sit down right behind me, they inform the passengers that the bag is carrying a bunch of snakes and a caiman (an alligator). Oh.

The boat pulls away and we start our half hour ride across the Essequibo River, winding between the islands and navigating small swells. And the rain has kicked up, which means we all hide behind oversized, rubber sheets. After about fifteen minutes, I hear a commotion behind me. I look back to see a caiman about four feet long halfway out of its rice bag. One of the guys has his foot on the caiman’s head and is yelling at his friend to pick up the rest of the animal. The boat driver has basically stopped the boat and jumped up onto his seat, pulling his bare feel away from the caiman, which is now biting anything it can and holding on. Finally they pull the caiman out of its rice bag and try to tie his snout closed. There, obviously, is a lot of colorful language going on right now. And it didn’t help that one of the guys was completely inept at getting the piece of string around his snout. It keeps slipping off, which resulted in even more cussing. I’m looking at all this, imagining the caiman chewing its way out of the bag again and biting the back of my foot. So suddenly it’s very much in my interest for this caiman to get its snout closed. So I pull a Velcro tie off my backpack (good ol’ North Face) and hand it to the guys. The inept guy takes it and completely fails at putting it on the caiman’s snout. So I take it back and put it on the caiman myself. They then get him back in the rice bag.

We start moving again. I ask the guy how many snakes he has. He says he’s got about forty of all sizes in his bag. I’m considering how likely it is for a snake to chew through a rice bag. He says he gets them from the Pomeroon River from Amerindian people who catch them. And then he takes them to Georgetown, where he exports them. I decided not to question the legality of it all. And anyway, the guy was really nice. But as we’re talking, the boat slows down and stops, dead in the water. The boat driver thinks he’s out of gas. So suddenly I’m in a dead speed boat in the driving rain with forty snakes and an angry caiman? Is this the Guyanese version of “Life of Pi?”

Luckily the driver finds a second canister of gas and we finish our journey to Parika. The caiman stays in his bag and the snakes choose not to join the party. So it all ended well enough. I guess if I was new to Guyana, the fact that two guys with forty snakes and a caiman shared my boat would be story. But after fifteen months here, the caiman has to escape and I have to tie his snout closed for it to become worthy to re-tell. If I ever extended for a third year here, maybe I’d have to wrestle it off the boat to save a small baby? Probably…


At 11:50 AM, Blogger Tippy said...

I have no such exciting stories to report from Bosnia. I did almost step on a hedgehog as it crossed the road on my way to my flat the other day. To spice it up, I could tell you I was barefoot. But that would be a lie. Ohh, I went extreme field running. Ok, I wasn't running in the field. I was running on the road next to the field. And I know there were no land mines because a sign from the UN and the Princess Diana fund told me it had been de-mined in 2003.
-Take it easy- PT


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